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Enhanced 911 (E911)

Enhanced 911 (E911) is an enhanced version of the 911 system used in the United States for calls seeking emergency assistance such as police, fire, and ambulance services. Calls to 911 are routed to a Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) – E911 identifies the location of the caller and routes the call to the appropriate local PSAP, and provides the PSAP with location information in order to speed response. Landline and cell service providers both are required by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to support E911 where it is available.

Grapic showing how an E911 system can notify the front desk when an emergency call is placed from a specific conference room in an office

Who utilizes E911?

Every company should be utilizing E911 services. Some larger organizations who need advantages of robust solutions like E911 are universities, hospitals and massive office campuses. Think of the thousands of people at these locations who are on-site at any given time. E911 is specifically designed to connect these businesses to their emergency responders, and is more reliable than regular 911. Some advances E911 has over regular 911 are:

  • Enhanced location information 
  • GPS, to ensure if emergency responders are needed on certain floors or conference rooms of a building
  • Ability to use multiple devices to make a 911 call, like landlines, wireless phones, and VoIP phones

 If disaster strikes, businesses are going to need to be prepared. With E911, emergency responders will be able to know exactly where they can reach those in need, and do it in a timely manner. 

Is E911 Mandatory?

Short answer: for most states, yes. Long answer: the FCC requires that carriers and interconnected VoIP (IVoIP) providers must meet all industry 911 standards. This includes systems that automatically provide a call-back number and accurate emergency location information. Since 911 is a mandatory service feature for IVoIP service providers, you’ll want to choose a partner that supports all the tools necessary to make it easy to meet changing regulations.

While the national 911 system is decades old, new technologies to meet the needs of our increasingly mobile population are being deployed. As more users access 911 through IP-enabled mobile devices and are growing to expect imagery, audio, and video within these technologies, providers need to be ready. 

What Are the Rules and Regulations for E911?

There are many rules and regulations that are constantly developing in the 911 space, and these will vary state-to-state. There is, however, one constant rule for all states: any building with multiple floors must be broken up into different locations for emergency responders. 

Two changes that have undergone recently which have affected the rule books are Kari’s Law and RAY BAUM’S Act. 

  • Kari’s Law: Requires the direct dialing of 911 be enabled without having to dial a prefix to reach an outside line in enterprise environments. Kari’s Law also directs the FCC to develop necessary 911 calling regulations for the multi-line telephone systems (MLTS) that are commonly used for communications services in buildings, like hotels, hospitals, and most office campuses. 
  • RAY BAUM’S Act: (Repack Airwaves Yielding Better Access for Users of Modern Services Act) Requires the Commission to strongly consider adopting a rule to create a unique location identification with each 911 call placed, regardless of the technology platform or device used. This would allow 911 call centers to receive the automatic location information of the caller, and dispatch to emergency responders more quickly.  

What is E911 for VoIP?

When you dial 911 from a VoIP phone, your call is automatically routed to a PSAP, which will then dispatch a local emergency responder to the address you have most recently registered as your location. Even though the registered address is automatically presented, callers will always want to be prepared to validate their name, location, and contact information.

Beyond traditional IVoIP services, new VoIP calling services are being developed that are even more mobile in nature.  As a result, Bandwidth has developed a service called Dynamic Location Routing, which features the latest Internet Protocol standard PIDF-LO (Presence Information Data Format-Location Object). Dynamic Location Routing is principally designed to support enterprises that may face call location challenges associated with large or multi-tenant addresses such as high rises or large campuses. Whether using a mobile IP device or IP devices anchored to the cloud, emergency responders will be given the most accurate, current location information available when emergency callers need them.

How Much Does E911 Cost?

E911 service fees vary depending on state or local jurisdiction, and range from $.0075 to $6.00. These fees are typically going to local or state government to recover costs associated with building and operating their 911 services. If you are unsure about your E911 service fees, or what the breakdown looks like between a landline, mobile phone, conference/work phone, etc,  NENA (National Emergency Number Association) has provided a chart which shows a breakdown of pricing per state, based on which type of phone line is being used. 

How is Bandwidth Involved with E911

Bandwidth offers three E911 routing solutions to meet the various needs of our diverse customer base. These 911 Access services and their accompanying features are geared towards providers of VoIP-based phone solutions. Our E911 services include Standard Address Routing, Coordinates Routing, and Dynamic Location Routing. These services differ based on the method of location routing as well as the end user’s profile. By assessing these factors, Bandwidth is able to determine what E911 service is best for each of our customers. For more information on each one of our E911 services, check out our comprehensive overviews of Standard Address Routing, Coordinates Routing, and Dynamic Location Routing to learn more.

Bandwidth’s E911 Services

Bandwidth understands the importance of making sure an end user has reliable, fast access emergency services when they need it most. That is why we offer three different E911 options to cover a variety of different scenarios that your customers might find themselves in. Whether you need to provide 911 access to end users who are constantly on the go or to those that are close to home, Bandwidth has you covered.

In addition to our array of services, Bandwidth provides our customers with a world class support team that is on-call 24/7 to address any problems that might arise. Our Network Operations Center (NOC) team is always available to give you peace of mind that your 911 access services are ready to use whenever the time comes. In addition, Bandwidth offers all of these features with our easy-to-use and secure APIs. We’ve mastered E911, so you can focus on what matters most to you.

Definitions: Terms capitalized when used within this document have the following meanings:

“911 Services” means functionality that allows end users to contact emergency services by dialing the digits 911.

“Enhanced 911 Service” or “E911” means the ability to route an emergency call to the designated entity authorized to receive such calls, which in many cases is a Public Safety Answering Point (“PSAP”), serving the Customer’s registered or user-provided address and to deliver the user’s telephone number and registered address information automatically to the emergency operator answering the call.

“Basic 911 Service” means the ability to route an emergency call to the designated entity authorized to receive such calls serving the Customer’s registered or user-provided address. With basic 911, the emergency operator answering the phone will not have access to the caller’s telephone number or address information unless the caller provides such information verbally during the emergency call.

With Enhanced 911 Service (“E911”), when a caller from your registered location dials the digits 911 from any Bandwidth offered calling service that is associated with a phone number and a properly registered address, the phone number and address are automatically presented to the local emergency center serving the location. Emergency operators will have access to this information regardless of whether the caller is able to verbally provide such information.

With Basic 911 Service, when a caller from your registered location dials the digits 911, the call is sent to the local emergency center serving that location. Operators answering the call will not have automatic access to the caller’s call-back telephone number or the associated registered address, even if that address has been properly registered, because with Basic 911 Service the emergency center is not equipped to receive, capture or retain the telephone number associated with the Bandwidth calling service or the registered address. Accordingly, callers must be prepared to provide both call-back and address information. If the call is dropped or disconnected, or if the caller is unable to speak, the emergency operator answering the call will not be able to call the caller back or dispatch help to the caller’s address if call-back and address information has not been provided by the caller.

EMERGENCY SERVICE DISCLOSURE APPLICABLE TO ALL CALLING SERVICES OFFERED BY BANDWIDTH:

The limitations detailed below are applicable to all of Bandwidth’s calling services (which include but are by no means limited to: Phonebooth OnDemand, SIP Trunking, SIP Origination/Termination, Boxset, FreePBX/SipStation, and Hosted IP-PBX). Customer agrees to inform all users of Bandwidth’s calling services of the potential complications arising from the delivery of emergency services when dialing 911. Specifically, Customer acknowledges and agrees to inform all employees, guests and other third persons who may use Bandwidth’s VoIP calling services of the limitations detailed below associated with all of Bandwidth’s emergency calling capabilities.

  1. All of Bandwidth’s Calling Services Have 911 Capabilities that are Different Than Those Offered by Traditional Providers of Local Telephone Services: Customer acknowledges and agrees that all of Bandwidth’s calling services are Internet based and that the 911 calling capabilities associated with all of Bandwidth’s calling services are different from those offered by traditional providers of local telephone services. Bandwidth’s VoIP calling services are not meant to be relied upon in the case of an emergency. While Bandwidth attempts to provide access to emergency service, these VoIP services are not intended to be used to support or to carry emergency calls to any type of hospitals, law enforcement agencies, medical care units or any other kind of emergency services. YOU SHOULD MAINTAIN AN ALTERNATIVE MEANS OF CALLING EMERGENCY SERVICES.
  2. 911 Service Will NOT Work If You Experience A Power Outage, Service Outage or any other network disruption. Outages of your electricity and problems with your connection, including network congestion, will disrupt any Bandwidth calling service and you will not be able to use it for 911 emergency calling.
  3. 911 Service Will NOT Work If Your Service Is Disconnected Or You Experience An Outage For Any Reason. If you have a service outage due to a suspension of your account due to billing issues or for any other reason, you will not be able to use any Bandwidth calling services for any calls, including for emergency 911 calls.
  4. You May Not Be Able to Reach the Correct Emergency Services If You Have A Telephone Number That Does Not Match Your Actual Geographic Location. VoIP services are technically capable of being used in locations that are not associated with the traditional geographic area of a telephone number. These capababilities can cause 911 problems however. All 911 capabilities will only be available in the location that you have associated with the particular Bandwidth assigned direct-inward-dial (“DID”) telephone number assigned to the Customer. For Basic 911 Services or E911 to be accurately routed to the appropriate emergency call center, the Customer must provide accurate DID telephone numbers as the call-back telephone number for all 911 calls and accurate address information. Additionally, if you are using the service in a location that uses a different area code than the area code in the number you are using with your VoIP service, when you dial 911 you may not be able to reach any emergency personnel. Even if you do reach emergency personnel, your call may not reach the emergency personnel near your actual physical location and the emergency personnel may not be able to transfer your call or respond to your emergency.
  5. You May Not Be Able To Reach the Correct Emergency Service Center If You Fail to Register A Valid Service Address. Failure to provide a correct physical address in the correct format may cause all Basic 911 Service or E911 calls to be routed to the incorrect local emergency service provider. Furthermore, use of any Bandwidth calling service from a location other than the location to which such service was ordered, i.e., the “primary registered address,” may result in Basic or Enhanced 911 calls being routed to the incorrect local emergency service provider.
  6. You May Not Be Able to Reach the Correct Emergency Services If You Move Your Phone to a Location Different From the Address You Initially Registered. It is important that you register accurate location information every time you move the equipment associated with your Bandwidth calling service. If you move your Bandwidth equipment to another location without reregistering, when you dial 911, you may not be able to reach any emergency personnel. Even if you do reach emergency personnel, if you have not provided valid location information you will not be calling the emergency personnel near your actual location and this emergency personnel may not be able to transfer your call or respond to your emergency.
  7. You May Not Be Able to Reach the Correct Emergency Services If You Fail to Accurately Register or Reregister Your New Location Or Call 911 Within 48 Hours of Updating Your Location. It is important that you register an accurate location when you initiate your service and every time you move the equipment associated with your Bandwidth VoIP calling service. When you change your location, it may take up to 48 hours for your location change to be reflected in our records. During that time, you may not be able to reach may not be able to reach the correct emergency services center or any emergency service provider by dialing 911.
  8. Bandwidth VoIP Calling Services Allow One Emergency Service Address to be Associated with Each Telephone Number. Certain Bandwidth VoIP calling services do not have a telephone number associated with them but allow for placing and receiving calls. For example, Bandwidth offers a “softphone client” service. Customers may choose to buy calling services from Bandwidth that have a telephone number but then use the softphone client to allow multiple users to place and receive calls using one telephone number. Customers must use the softphone client and the Bandwidth VoIP calling service that has a telephone number associated with it from the same location. Using a service that does not have a telephone number in a remote location will result in the wrong address information being sent in the event of placing an emergency call by dialing 911. The emergency call operator may not be able to transfer the call to appropriate emergency call operators. In the event that Customer intends to use Bandwidth VoIP calling services in multiple locations, at least one telephone number will be required for each location. You acknowledge and agree to this limitation and agree that you will obtain at least one telephone number for each location associated with the Bandwidth calling service.

Frequently Asked Questions about E911

How do I manage my VoIP E911 operations?

Look for self-service features, such as a dashboard, that lets you provision, report, and open support tickets at your convenience. You should also seek a full suite of tools that give you visibility into things like registered addresses, unprovisioned 911 endpoints, and emergency call detail records (CDRs), etc.

How do VoIP E911 solutions validate addresses?

Find out how several locations can be associated with a single IP-enabled nomadic device. People go many places throughout the day, like home, work, their kids’ schools, the gym, etc. Emergencies can happen at the blink of an eye, so it’s pertinent to be able to give your customers as many options as possible. It is also important that customers be able to update their own records in your 911 system; people may move or change jobs, and placing a service call to update their information can easily become an inconvenience.

Can you deliver to any PSAP capable of E911?

A provider should be able to offer a variety of PSAP connectivity options to maximize E911 availability. Good 911 providers will have a process for working with the PSAP to ensure service is available when you need it. Your provider should be able to deliver calls to PSAPs in all the regions where you have end users. Good 911 providers will have a process in place for testing with the PSAP when you turn your service up.